Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Fictions Of Adultery ENGLIT5015

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course examines representations of adultery in British literature from the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century. We will examine a range of forms and genres from newspapers and novels to plays and poems and we will consider ways in which legical discourse and forms of social commentary upon sexual mores influenced literary writings.


Ten weekly 1 1/2 hour seminars.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry into Masters at College Level

Excluded Courses





1. Students submit one mid-term exercise 1,500 words, based upon a presentation made in class (10%)

2. Final essay of 3000 words (90%)

Course Aims

The course will take an interdisciplinary approach, comparing literary representations of adultery with the discourses of science, law and journalism. We will investigate the fascination adultery had for major Victorian novelists and the double standards by which newspapers gleefully reported every detail of the divorce courts while denouncing the public taste for such material. We shall examine the implications of representations of adultery regarding the role of women and the family in Victorian society. The course connects different perspectives on marriage to different literary forms, from novels and poems to Wagnerian opera. The final weeks of the course will ask whether Modernism represents a break with or a continuation of Victorian attitudes towards sex and marriage.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will be able:
-To demonstrate an understanding of the literary representation of adultery between 1800 and 1922
-To place literary texts representing adultery in various historical and literary contexts, particularly in relation to legal, scientific and journalistic discourse.
-To assess the impact of these contexts on literary form and content.
-To relate theories of gender and sexuality to nineteenth and early twentieth century texts about adultery.
- To pursue interdisciplinary research into literature and culture from the period 1800-1922, including research into primary materials from university collections and databases.
-To compare and contrast texts from different historical periods, using techniques of close reading in conjunction with an awareness of broader theories and methodologies.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.